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Israeli President Asks Settlers to Forgive Government for Gaza Pullout


Israeli President Moshe Katsav has asked Jewish settlers to forgive the government for ordering the Israeli evacuation of the Gaza Strip.

In a nationally televised address this Wednesday evening, he then asked them to maintain national unity and cooperate in next week's pullout.

In sharp contrast hours earlier, former Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged parliament to scrap the disengagement plan. He said lawmakers were the only ones capable of stopping the withdrawal, which he referred to as "this evil."

Sunday, Mr. Netanyahu quit the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, to protest the disengagement. He joined the fragile ruling coalition late last year as a tentative backer of the plan.

Today's address coincided with new polls showing Mr. Netanyahu would win a contest with Mr. Sharon to head the right-wing Likud party, if polls were held today.

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